Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar's remark on Friday that there was no Indian study to show pollution impacts people's life and health, drew sharp reaction from environment experts across the country who termed it a "no-brainer".
Earlier in the day, while responding to a query in the Lok Sabha, Javadekar said no Indian study has shown any correlation between pollution and shortening of lifespan.
"Let us not create a fear psychosis among people," the minister told the House.
According to a study conducted by Lancet last year, one in eight deaths were attributable to pollution in India in 2017. Another study by CSE revealed that one lakh children under 5 years of age die from respiratory problems arising due to air pollution in India every year.
Criticising the minister for his statement, environmentalists said it was "shocking" and condemnable.
"It is really shocking. At a time when the national capital region is inhaling polluted air, such kind of statement adds to the injury. Observing the seriousness of the issue, top courts - Supreme Court, National Green Tribunal and Delhi High Court are conducting hearing on day-to-day basis on the matter. Does our great minister mean that our courts are wasting their time on the issue?
"Such statements must be condemned at all levels be it within the Parliament or outside," said environment activist and advocate Gaurav Bansal.
Expressing a similar view, environment expert Anjal Prakash, who was one of the lead authors in the IPCC report on oceans and cryosphere, said, global research has shown the impact of pollution on health.
"I do not agree with the minister's statement. It is a no-brainer to say this," said Prakash, who is the Research Director at Bharti Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
Greenpeace India's Avinash Chanchal also said that the environment minister should not "digress" the Parliament and the people of India by making such a statement.
"Let's be clear that air pollution and its consequences on public health is not a debate. It's an emergency that must be addressed. There is enough information and studies on air pollution that established that air pollution is making people sick and endangering their long term health.
"The minister should not digress the Parliament and the people of India. The government must implement a strong action plan to tackle the issue across the polluted cities," Chanchal said.
Another environmentalist Radha Goyal, Deputy Director, Indian Pollution Control Association (IPCA) said it is wrong to say there is no correlation between pollution and health.
"It is wrong to say that. Pollution definitely aggravates health issues and several studies have been conducted by experienced scientists," she said adding that the minister must have made the statement under pressure to tackle with the problem.
"May be because the ministry and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) are under extreme pressure and have not been able to tackle the situation well that such a statement was made," Goyal said.
The experts, however, urged that there was a need for allocation of more resources in finding the linkages.
"We will need more research that tells us the impact of pollution on people's life in India. The research community urges the minister to allocate more resources in finding the linkages," Prakash said.